Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
Posted: September 30th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
Rosie and I went down to Quendon on Sunday to spend a couple of days with Helen and Rufus. On Monday morning Helen marched me down to the Vodaphone shop in Bishop’s Stortford to sort out my cell phone “so that we won’t keep worrying about it”. To be honest, I haven’t been worried about it but she obviously has so I meekly went along. High Street mobile phone shops are dreary places for people not interested in the minutiae of their product, a bit like betting shops I suppose, where the number of decisions and choices you have to deal with even on simple transactions, like an in-car charger, lead rapidly to neurological meltdown. And the waiting – it’s worse than a pox clinic on a Monday morning – while nerdy types converse at length with equally nerdy assistants in a language resembling FORTRAN, and not a chair in sight for those of riper years.
When we eventually got in front of an assistant my heart sank – his badge proclaimed: “I’m new!” Actually, he was OK, not too nerdy (but wait until he’s been there a few weeks), though he looked puzzled when I suggested they should go round the pharmacies in town and nick a few of those chairs they have that advertise haemorrhoid medication, Anusol I think it’s called. What we wanted, Helen decided, was to change my account from a twenty quid a month deal – a lot for receiving texts mostly from Vodaphone – to a pay-as-you-go arrangement under which I would drip-feed tiny amounts of money into the system with a handsome refund at the end of the year. Impossible. Not only that, the cheapest deal is £10 a month, no rebates on the use it or lose it principle, and you can only do it on-line. My least favourite phrase in the English language is “on-line applications only” (my favourite is “full English breakfast”). Anyway, New Boy said it would be dead easy.
It took an hour. To be precise, it took Helen an hour while I sat morosely by drinking Yellow Tail Shiraz and solving the easy bits of the Telegraph crossword. At least half of that time was spent on the telephone to an unusually competent help-line operator, but the deal was done. My only contribution, apart from opening a second bottle, was to confirm to the help-line chap that I was incapable of conducting my own affairs and did indeed want my daughter to do it for me. Since then I have had a flurry of text messages from Vodaphone confirming the order, giving me a secret number, telling me that my new phone (free) would be dispatched on Tuesday for delivery on Wednesday time-window to be confirmed, a correction to that, dispatch now Wednesday, followed finally by notification that dispatch would after all be Tuesday and delivery would be between 12.05 pm and 1.05pm. It arrived at 12.30, as promised, and not by a wood-elf.
In a life littered with disappointments and broken promises this was quite a result. What I want to know is, why to they go to all this trouble to arrange for me to halve my spending, and how do they make money out of it? Even if my £120 a year is all profit? I fancy there’s a mystery in it.
Next week is my birthday and so intimate is my relationship with Vodaphone now that I confidently expect flowers to arrive. Or a bottle of Shiraz.
Posted: September 28th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Press coverage | Comments Off
Many Happy Returns 1940s was this month featured in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire County Life magazines’ Serendipity gift section.
Many Happy Returns 1940s is a box of 24 carefully researched reminiscence cards designed to get old and young talking together about how life used to be – a perfect way to entertain both grandparents and the grandchildren on an afternoon visit. And a great way to celebrate Grandparent’s Day on 3 October.
“I really like these cards..Got granny telling some funny old stories”
Posted: September 21st, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
Over the summer we had the Ryedale festival, an annual two-week feast of classical music performed at various venues, grand and modest, throughout this part of North Yorkshire. Some events are in village halls, some in grand houses such as Sledmere and Duncombe Park, some in religious houses such as Ampleforth Abbey. And one in St Mary’s Priory Church, Old Malton, a 12th century former Gilbertine priory that just happens to be at the bottom of my garden. A candle-lit concert, no less.
Well, I had to go but for someone with a tin ear for music, and a deaf-aid on top it was a bit of a trial so I ducked out after the half time drinks, announcing that my bowels were in uproar, and nipped home to play with the dog. Most people who heard my announcement looked at me with sympathy, but not one of the local GPs – what I got coming off him was contempt; he’s heard that one before. That’s the trouble with culture, it takes no account of disorderly bowels.
By the time the second half finished, I was fully recovered and able to join the enthusiastic crowd up at “the big house”, invited by my friend the clever economist and his wife. There they all were, the great and the good and the titled, guzzling Champagne and scoffing bacon sandwiches, and Michael (the clever economist) struggling to keep up with demand, something he knows about, by cranking up the supply by simultaneously running three frying pans. Adam Smith was there in spirit, but I was there in body, buckling to with uncomplicated enjoyment.
I noticed in the festival brochure a list of benefactors, which included a name I recognised: a titled gentleman from Glaisdale who is the brother of a chap who worked for me in Nigeria, a young turk of restless energy. I went looking for him, hoping to chivy him out like an old stoat and scrape an acquaintance but he must have sensed he had become quarry and he had slipped away before I could get at him. A shy stoat as it turned out. His father, also a titled gentleman, a Lord in fact, turned out to quite useful when the young turk and I were in Nigeria. Some dangerous situation had developed there, I forget the details, and the turk and I legged it down to the British High Commission in Lagos seeking protection and hoping they would get a message to his father. They were pretty off-hand, but at last asked for Dad’s address. As soon as the House of Lords was mentioned everything changed; before we knew it we were swept into the inner reaches and offered imported beer. Nothing wrong with titles.
Posted: September 21st, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Inclusive design, New products! | Comments Off
We were thrilled to hear this week that Clare Edwards, inventor of the Trabasack, has been shortlisted for the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs 2010 .
Clare’s aim is to create innovative products that are inclusive and useful to everyone whatever their age or ability. Her first design is the multi-award winning Trabasack, a laptray and travel bag which enables the user to eat, drink, work or play wherever they are by providing a flat tray surface.
Founder of easyjet, Sir Stelios launched the award saying ; “I am very passionate about encouraging an enterprising spirit throughout British culture. Helping to remove the barriers that disabled people face in business is an important part of this. That is why I was keen to establish an award which gives disabled people an opportunity to showcase their ability rather than have them negatively judged by their disability. I look forward to seeing the best of the entries and meeting the eventual winner.”
Clare, a wheelchair user since a car accident in her teens, explains : ”My biggest challenge has been to ensure that the volume, consistency and quality of work needed to create a successful business is achievable despite living with a disability. I have a strong internal drive and desire to be successful.
I have had to learn about marketing, sales, website design, manufacturing and logistics in a short space of time. Applying these new skills, whilst maintaining a professional standard throughout, is, at times, very tough.
We also have a child with severe epilepsy (Dravet Syndrome) who requires specialist care. It was my desire to help my disabled son access toys and switches that helped lead to the design of Trabasack.
I have focussed on my strengths such as design and creative work. Living with a disability means that you are always striving to adapt your environment to make life easier. It means you become a natural designer and inventor through your own needs.
My disability has been an advantage in that I have been able to create a “Design for all” product before knowing what that meant! “
Clare now waits to hear from the judges whether she will go on to meet Sir Stelios at a special judging lunch in London in October. We wish her the very best of luck.
To buy the Trabasack, click here
Posted: September 21st, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Care, Miscellaneous, New products! | No Comments »
Yesterday I spent the afternoon looking at toilets. But these are no ordinary loos, these washlets are part of Japanese designers, TOTO’s campaign to revolutionise Europe with life enhancing clean technology.
Now the British don’t have a great record with equipment which bathes the nether regions. Remember bidets. Installed in their hundreds of thousand in bathrooms throughout the country in the 70s and 80s, many bidets have been left to languor as occasional and expensive footbaths.
But TOTO’s products which promise “previously unimaginable levels of cleanliness, relaxation and contentment” look set to change all that.
And they are beautiful. Sleekly styled, elegant and modern, these toilets are fit to grace the most upmarket of bathrooms (and as architects and designers make a bee line for TOTO’s showroom in Clerkenwell, are doing so increasingly). And the features! Automatic seat lift, self cleaning washing wand using warm water, heated seat, deodoriser, Tornado Flush. The list goes on.
Have I convinced you yet? Another thought. Now, I know that we don’t like to dwell on these things but it did occur to me that a washlet would be a real luxury as we get older and ordinary activities like going to the toilet are not as straightforward as they once were. This is independence with real style!
And don’t get me started on the stunning illuminated washbasins..
For more information, go to eu.toto.com
Posted: September 14th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
The eruption this week of a huge boil on the end of my nose reminded me that the simple pleasure of youth are not all lost to those of riper years. It is a wretched business having a disfiguring carbuncle on the conk, but less troubling now than fifty years ago. The satisfaction of dealing with it, however, is undiminished, enhanced if fact by the patience that comes with maturity. I remember very well the premature urgency with which I poked and squeezed before the things were ready, prolonging the affliction and, worsening the inevitable scarring to which my face is witness, and depriving me of the exquisite pleasure of lancing them, full ready, with a sewing needle. In this, as in so much else, ripeness is all.
The pimply teenager and rheumy-eyed pensioner have one important thing in common, which the intervening years of holding down a job, paying the mortgage, and rearing the next lot are inclined to make us forget – no real responsibility. Now, as then, no-one can sack me, foreclose on my mortgage, or put my children into foster care because such things are not among those that concern me. Maybe this is why grandparents get along so easily with grandchildren – a kinship based on lack of concern. I’m afraid that I do not take enough advantage of my freedom.
I remember very clearly the uncomplicated satisfaction I derived as a boy from urinating into the rain gauges located in the school grounds in order to disrupt the data-collection of boring geography teachers and their geeky acolytes. Should I not be taking up this kind of work again, throwing marbles under the hooves of the horses of dull authority figures? A few years ago, one of my friends pulled off a striking example of what can be done. His district council had ordered him to remove from his lawn the flag pole from which he flew the union jack, and in retaliation he applied to it for planning permission to site there instead a Cruise Missile launching pad.The planners, no doubt holders of geography A levels with middling grades, solemnly processed his application, asking supplementary questions, demanding drawings be amended to a different scale and generally making themselves useful before, inevitably, rejecting it. Fools like these are ideal targets, taking as they do themselves and their pompous office seriously to a ludicrous degree. A moment of thought should have told them to drop him a line requiring proof of purchase of the missile and this would have put an end to the matter, and they may even have enjoyed writing the letter. But that is not the geographer’s way.
Now, back to the bubo on the nose. Caring less now about appearances than I did when pustules were more common I did not hide myself away in a darkened room, but made a special trip into York like a boastful Bardolf where, in front of pretty shop girls I pantomimed embarrassment, urging them to look away – “Don’t look, don’t look! It’s too horrible!” – while I enjoyed the reaction, which was depressingly mature and pleasingly kind if you want to know.
It so happened that the thing on my nose put in its appearance only a day or so after I had visited my barber. Generally there I have a number two, but what with the hot weather lately, I decided on a number one – which is very short. When the nose and the hairdo were described to my daughter, Helen, she said, “So, what you have there then is a skinhead with a big plook on his nose”. Nice. But at least she didn’t do geography.
A word of warning about rain gauges. Some of the older ones are housed in structures that resemble beehives, so mind how you go.
Posted: September 12th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Legal - employment, Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney | No Comments »
There’s a new brand on the high street and it’s not a new supermarket or building society. With the threat of “Tesco law” looming (when the Legal Services Act comes into force in 2011), lawyers are wondering how best to compete and for some, establishing a new nationwide brand is the way to go. Enter QualitySolicitors coming soon to a high street near you.
May 2010 saw the opening of the first 15 QualitySolicitors branches across the UK, in a strategy intended as a ‘game changer’ in the legal market place. Well-established practices such as Bristol firm Burroughs Day and Howlett Clarke in Brighton are among 13 firms to have totally rebranded. They now trade under the QualitySolicitors name, branding and logo. A further 100 firms are partially rebranding by using the term ‘a QualitySolicitors firm’ after their name.
Along with visibility on the high street, and a high-profile marketing campaign on primetime television, QualitySolicitors’ ambition is to be the first household name legal brand before Tesco law entrants can even get off the ground. It plans to have a branch in every town and city in England and Wales by October 2011.
Looking at the website, you can see that QuailitySolicitors are modern lawyers. Not only are the colours bright and even funky (black and shocking pink), there are also links to social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Interesting move. It is currently very difficult to find and choose lawyers (and I say that as someone who has practiced as one for 20 years!) and it would be really useful to be able to have a range of established brands to choose from in the same way as you decide which supermarket to visit. But the brands would have to deliver consistently. Tesco and Waitrose, for example, deliver the same high quality and customer experience in every store and they do that not just by replicating the look of their stores but by rigorous management, exhaustive staff training and detailed operating procedures.
One of the challenges for QualitySolicitors is to ensure that every firm in its network delivers the same quality service and experience as the others. This is a big ask for such a diverse group of firms used to operating alone.
The other challenge will be to show how the local branch of QualitySolicitors really differentiates itself from other good local law firms other than by dint of the distinctive branding. The “Promise” on the website does not essentially differ from offerings from any other good firms. For example, no hidden costs (this is required by solicitors own professional rules in any event), direct lawyer contact, first consultation free and same day response.
As I said, interesting times and I wish them well.
What do you think? Would you chose a lawyer by the branding?
For more details http://www.qualitysolicitors.com/index.html; http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/exclusive-qualitysolicitors-launches-high-street-network
Posted: September 5th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft, Retirement | Comments Off
My mobile/cell phone is at last a goner. I inherited it from Helen several years ago when, hungry for more apps, she went in for a then must-have killer device. It has been playing up for several months, holding a charge for only a day just on standby but only if I was careful always to have it charging, indoors and in the car, but I managed. Now I can get it from the socket in the kitchen to the fag lighter in the car before it dies, but only if the car is in the garage – if it’s in the street, there’s no chance. As there is no signal in the house, which has thick walls and is in a poorly served, sparsely populated area,I can pick up messages only when I’m driving about which is of course illegal. If I were a cyclist I would be OK, as John Snow demonstrated by using his while cycling without lights the wrong way along a one-way pavement, on his way home from the pub. But at least he’s green.
I was never fond of the thing if I’m honest, but I did use it, mostly for reading interesting messages from Vodaphone, but now faced with the possibility of replacing it I’m a bit torn. I’m not out touch, not really; I do after all check my e-mails most Thursdays, but I do resent the expense. So what to do? Do I “go commando” (notice my grasp of street argot), or do I go the whole hog and invest in a Raspberry? Why, by the way, do techies like to name stuff after fruit, in the case of Apple whole companies? I bet there’ll never be a Tomato device; I read somewhere that being well-informed is knowing that tomatoes are fruit, being wise is knowing not to put one in a fruit salad, and techies are nothing if not wise.
But the speed of technological change is making me edgy, and I cannot decide. What if I go in for the Raspberry, all set to make videos and take snaps at Christenings, read e-mails on and watch telly by, and the following week along come some new apps that will tell me when the casserole is done and diagnose faults in my car, how foolish will I look then? When I started work there was one desk-top calculator for each division of the company, one photocopier for the whole company. When I was sent to Africa for a few years I had to get special permission to buy a pocket calculator to take with me (£50 in 1975), and when I got back in four years later they were giving them away at petrol stations, the Telex was on its way out and the fax machine was about to arrive – now pretty much gone of course. But that was nothing to what is happening now.
I have made some nervous enquiries at Car Phone Warehouse, but I was totally flummoxed by the enthusiastic sales patter of the skinny teenager specially selected for the speed with which he could discomfort old farts like me. Is there, I wanted to know, a model that operates only as a telephone, because it was becoming clear that the multiple apps would actually make it impossible for me to make a simple call. He looked at me as if I had asked where I could purchase a child to send up my chimney.
So here I am, still with my early Nokia with a flat battery. I’ll have to do something, perhaps pay an infant to make the decision for me and miserably cough up some painful monthly charge that would be better invested in merlot. Or toss the Nokia in the bin, the recycle bin obviously, retreat into oblivion and go back to writing letters.
Posted: September 3rd, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Inclusive design, Legal - employment, Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Press coverage, Retirement | No Comments »
Flexibility is the key to making employment an attractive and healthy option for all employees regardless of age.
Read our legal expert Catriona Watt’s article about how follwing the Finnish example might be the way forward in this month’s Mabels online magazine.